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American Society of Safety Engineers Urge Students to Stop Fires Before They Start

Posted in on Wed, Aug 29, 2007

Des Plaines, IL (August 29, 2007) — Each year many students lose their lives or are injured in preventable fires. As students move into college residence halls, off-campus housing or fraternity/sorority houses for the school year, the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Fire Prevention Branch urges them to be aware of life-saving fire prevention knowledge. ASSE has prepared and is distributing free fire safety tip sheets and a flier with information on how students can stay safe.

There have been a number of on and off-campus fire tragedies over the years. The majority of campus fires occur off-campus. Earlier this month, a Bradley University student died in an off-campus house fire; the cause is under investigation. The building was not equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system. In 2006, an off-campus fire that started in a plastic container used for discarding smoking materials took the life of one Cornell University student and injured another; in 2005, an off-campus arson related fire killed one University of Maryland student and critically injured another; in 2004, a Greek-Fraternity house fire with an unknown cause killed three Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity members at the University of Mississippi; in 2003, five Ohio State University students were killed from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by an arson related off-campus fire; and in 1996, a fire at a University of North Carolina Fraternity house killed five and injured three Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity members.

“ASSE is an organization committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Simple safety steps can save lives. We urge students, parents and administrators to recognize that on/off campus fires are a risk that can be avoided,” ASSE President Michael Thompson, CSP, said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the top causes of fires in dormitory related structures are cooking, contained trash or rubbish piles and intentional fires. Along with these three, alcohol plays a major role in fire injury rates. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) notes that in more than 50 percent of adult fire fatalities, victims were under the influence at the time of the fire. Drinking greatly reduces one’s ability to detect and respond to a fire and safely escape, officials say.

The number one cause of fire-related death is smoke inhalation, according to the medical community. It is estimated that 50-60 percent of fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation rather than burns. Smoke inhalation occurs when one breathes in the products of combustion during a fire. Combustion results from the rapid breakdown of a substance by heat, burning. Smoke is a mixture of heated particles and gases. It is tough to predict the exact composition of smoke produced by a fire since the products being burned–the temperature of the fire and the amount of oxygen available to the fire–all make a difference in the type of smoke produced.

With that said, each residence hall should be equipped with properly operating doors with self-closers that are not propped open; clearly marked exits; corridors that are kept clear and are not blocked; heating and ventilation systems that are routinely inspected and repaired for any deficiencies; and properly operating fire alarm and extinguishing systems, and equipped where required.

On and off-campus fires can be avoided by developing a fire escape plan; having and knowing how to work fire extinguishers, escape ladders and fire alarms and detectors; not overloading extension cords, power strips or outlets; cooking safely; avoiding open flames, and; correctly discarding smoking materials. ASSE is providing free fire safety tips on statistics, prevention tips, fire escape planning, fire safety equipment for off-campus and Greek housing, information on recent incidents, a parents guide to fire safety: what you need to know when your child leaves home for college, a list of key resources, and an on/off campus fire safety flyer. These are available at .

Founded in 1911, ASSE is the oldest and largest professional safety society and is dedicated to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 30,000 members manage, supervise and consult on safety, health and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education.

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